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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 19



Verse 1

1. μετῆρεν ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας κ.τ.λ. From the parallel passage in Mark we learn that this means: Came into Judæa by the trans-Jordanic route through Peræa, thus avoiding Samaria. It does not mean that any portion of Judæa lay beyond Jordan. St Matthew here omits various particulars, of which some are to be supplied from Luke 9:51 to Luke 17:11; others from John—two visits to Jerusalem (John 7:8-10 and John 10:22-39); the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-30); the retirement to Ephraim (John 11:54).

μετῆρεν. In this sense late, in N.T. only here and ch. Matthew 13:51.

Verse 1-2


Mark 10:1

Verse 3

3. πειράζοντες αὐτόν. For present participle containing an idea of purpose cp. Soph. El. 68, δέξασθέ μʼ εὐτυχοῦντα ταῖσδε ταῖς ὁδοῖς.

εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνθρώπῳ ἀπολῦσαι κ.τ.λ. The words ‘for every cause’ are omitted in Mark. In Matthew they contain the pith of the question: ‘Is the husband’s right to divorce his wife quite unlimited?’ The school of Shammai allowed divorce in the case of adultery, the school of Hillel on any trivial pretext.

It was a question of special interest and of special danger in view of Herod’s marriage with Herodias.

Verses 3-12


Mark 10:2-9

Matthew 19:10-12 are peculiar to Matthew. St Mark mentions the part of the conversation contained in Matthew 19:9 as having taken place ‘in the house,’ Matthew 19:10-12.

Verse 4

4. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς. An appeal from the law of Moses to a higher and absolute law, which has outlived the law of Moses.

Verse 5

5. ἕνεκα τούτου. The lesson of Nature is the lesson of God, ‘Nunquam aliud Natura aliud Sapientia dicit.’ Juv. Sat. XIV. 321.

κολληθήσεται. This word and the compound προσκ. in N.T. use are confined to St Paul and St Luke except Revelation 18:5. This passage and Mark 10:7 (where the reading is doubtful) are quotations. The classical meaning of κολλᾶν is [1] to glue; [2] to inlay; [3] to join very closely: κεκόλληται γένος πρὸς ἄτᾳ, Æsch. Ag. 1566.

εἰς σάρκα μίαν. εἰς denotes the state or condition into which a thing passes. The construction follows the Hebrew idiom.

Verse 6

6. , the neuter strengthens the idea of complete fusion into a single being.

συνέζευξεν. The aorist of the divine action undetermined by time. Cp. εὐδόκησεν, ch. Matthew 3:17, παρεδόθη, Matthew 11:27, ἐδόθη, Matthew 28:18.

Verse 7

7. βιβλίον ἀποστασίου. See ch. Matthew 5:31-32.

Verse 8

8. πρὸς τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν. Having respect to, with a view to the hardness of your hearts towards God. So the law was relatively good, not absolutely. A great principle. Even now all are not capable of the higher religious life or of the deepest truths. Some interpret ‘hardness of heart,’ of the cruelty of men towards their wives.

ἐπέτρεψεν, ‘allowed,’ a correction of ἐνετείλατο, Matthew 19:7. Moses did not enjoin, but merely permitted a bill of divorce.

οὐ γέγονεν. Not ‘was not so,’ A.V., but ‘hath not been so’ continuously from the beginning to the present time. It is not an original and continuous tradition.

Verse 9

9. See ch. Matthew 5:32.

Verse 10

10. It is difficult to fix the precise meaning of ἡ αἰτία. It is either: [1] the cause or principle of the conjugal union: ‘If the union be so close as thou sayest;’ or, [2] the cause or reason for divorce, namely adultery, referring to αἰτία, Matthew 19:3 : ‘If for this reason, and for this alone, divorce be allowed;’ or [3] ‘the case’ in a legal sense like causa, res de qua in judicio agitur: ‘If this be the only case with which a man may come into court.’ A further meaning, sometimes assigned ‘condition,’ ‘state of things,’ may be rejected. On the whole [2], which is Meyer’s view, seems preferable.

In D the reading is ἀνδρός, the correct word in contrast with γυναικός, but the reading is not supported. μετὰ is used to express relation generally, as in modern Greek.

οὐ συμφέρει γαμῆσαι. Nothing could prove more clearly the revolution in thought brought to pass by Christ than this. Even the disciples feel that such a principle would make the yoke of marriage unbearable.

γαμῆσαι. This aorist is used both in the sense of ‘to give to wife’ and ‘to take to wife,’ it is nearly confined to late authors. See Veitch sub voc. γαμέω.

Verse 11

11. χωρεῖν is to have or make room for, so [1] to contain: ὥστε μηκέτι χωρεῖν μηδὲ τὰ πρὸς τὴν θύραν, Mark 2:2; ὑδρίαι χωροῦσαι ἀνὰ μετρητὰς δύο ἢ τρεῖς, John 2:6; ὁ κρητὴρ χωρεῖ ἀμφορέας ἑξακοσίους, Hdt. I. 151; [2] to receive (in love): χωρήσατε ἡμᾶς, 2 Corinthians 7:2; [3] to receive intellectually, ‘comprehend,’ or ‘accept;’ [4] the Homeric meaning ‘to withdraw,’ i.e. to make room for another, is not found in the N.T.; [5] the ordinary classical force, ‘to advance,’ i.e. to make room for oneself, ‘to go,’ is found ch. Matthew 15:17 and 2 Peter 3:9, εἰς μετάνοιαν χωρῆσαι, and John 8:37, ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμὸς οὐ χωρεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν, ‘makes no progress in you.’

It is better to refer τὸν λόγον τοῦτον to the last words of the disciples, οὐ συμφέρει γαμῆσαι, than to the whole preceding argument. The general sense will then be: ‘Not all, but only those to whom it hath been given, make room for (i.e. accept and act upon) this saying.’

Verse 12

12. εἰσὶν γάρ. The γὰρ explains οἷς δέδοται.

διὰ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. In old days some men abstained from marriage in order to devote themselves to the study of the law, in later times men have done so for the furtherance of Christianity.

ὁ δυνάμενος χωρεῖν χωρείτω. Let him accept the rule who can accept it—he to whom it has been given—he who belongs to either of the three classes named.

The disciples found difficulty in the pure and binding conditions of marriage laid down by Christ, and saw no escape save in abstaining from marriage like the Essenes of that day (Joseph. B. J., γάμου μὲν ὑπεροψία παρʼ αὐτοῖς, and Antiq. XVIII. 1. 5, οὔτε γαμετὰς εἰσάγονται). Christ shews that there is difficulty there too. The limitations of Christ were forgotten in early days of Church history. False teachers arose, ‘forbidding to marry’ (1 Timothy 4:3, κωλυόντων γαμεῖν).

As in so many of our Lord’s important ‘rules,’ the principle of Hebrew parallelism is discernible here. The closing words—ὁ δυν. χωρ. χωρείτω—recall the opening words and respond to them—οὐ πάντεςοἷς δέδοται, the enclosed triplet rises to a climax—the highest motive is placed last.

Verse 13

13. It appears that it was customary for Jewish infants to be taken to the synagogue to be blessed by the Rabbi. Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. ‘Synagogue,’ note E.

ἵνα ἐπιθῇ. For the sequence of the subjunctive on historic tenses see note ch. Matthew 12:14.

Verses 13-15


Mark 10:13-16. Luke 18:15-17

In Luke the incident is placed immediately after the parable of the Pharisee and Publican; there it is an illustration of humility. Here, and in Mark, the connection between the purity of married life and the love of little children cannot be overlooked.

Verse 14

14. τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων κ.τ.λ. Love, simplicity of faith, innocence, and above all, humility, are the ideal characteristics of little children, and of the subjects of the kingdom.

Verse 15

15. ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας. No unmeaning act, therefore infants are capable of receiving a blessing, though not conscious of an obligation. It is the authorization of infant baptism. St Mark, as often, records a further loving act of Jesus, ἐναγκαλισάμενος αὐτά.

Verse 16

16. εἷς προσελθών. ‘Came one running, and kneeled to him’ (Mark). ‘A certain ruler,’ i.e. one of the rulers of the synagogue, like Jairus. The ‘decemvirate’ (see ch. Matthew 4:23) of the synagogue were chosen from ‘men of leisure’ (Hebr. Batlanin, cp. the same thought in Greek σχολή, from which ultimately through Lat. schola comes Eng. scholar), who were free from the necessity of labour, and could devote themselves to the duties of the synagogue, and to study; of these the first three were called ‘Rulers of the Synagogue.’

τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω κ.τ.λ. In Mark, τί ποιήσω ἵνα ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω; in Luke, τί ποιήσας ζ. αἰ. κληρονομήσω; In this question, ‘what shall I do?’ the ruler touches the central error of the Pharisaic system—that goodness consisted in exact conformity to certain external rules of conduct. Jesus shews that it is not by doing anything whatever that a man can inherit eternal life, but by being something; not by observing Pharisaic rules, but by being childlike.

Verse 16-17

16, 17. Here the textus receptus has: Διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω ἵνα ἔχω ζωὴν αἰώνιον; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθός, εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ Θεός.

The omission of ἀγαθὲ has the most ancient evidence in its favour. τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ rests on the authority of א B D L and other MSS., several versions and patristic quotations. The receptus is found in C and in many later uncials.

Verses 16-22


Mark 10:17-22. Luke 18:18-23

From Luke alone we learn that he was a ‘ruler;’ from Matthew alone that he was young. Each of the three Synoptists states that ‘he was very rich’ (Luke); ‘had great possessions’ (Matthew and Mark).

Verse 17

17. τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; The form in which our Lord’s answer is reported in Mark and Luke is: τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθός, εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός. According to St Matthew’s report, our Lord seizes upon the word ἀγαθὸν in the ruler’s question; according to the other gospels the reply turns on the use of the word as applied to himself, ἀγαθὲ διδάσκαλε. But though the reports differ in form, in effect they are identical. Christ’s answer is so framed as to wake reflection. ‘Why do you put this question about “the good,” why do you call me “good?” Do you understand the meaning of your own question?’ It was not a simple question, as the ruler thought: two points are raised: [1] What is ‘the good?’ [2] How to enter life eternal. Then again the answer to the first is partly left to inference, and the answer to the second lies deeper than the young ruler’s thoughts had gone. [1] There is one only who is good, therefore (the inference is) ‘the good’ can only be the will of God. [2] Then the way to enter into life eternal is to keep God’s will as expressed in the commandments. Jesus shews that here too the questioner had not thought deeply enough. Keeping the commandments is not external observance of them, but being in heart what the commandments mean, and what the will of God is.

Note in this incident [1] the manner of Jesus adapting itself to the condition of the ‘scholar,’ one who had leisure to think, and who plumed himself on having thought. To such he points out the way to deeper reflection. [2] The mission of Jesus to ‘fulfil the law.’ [3] The spiritual use of the law (the ten commandments), as awakening the sense of sin, and so leading to repentance. Bengel says: ‘Jesus securos ad Legem remittit, contritos evangelice consolatur.’

Verse 18

18. ποίας; What commandments? written or unwritten? human or divine? the law of Moses or the traditions of the elders? or perhaps the young ruler expected a specimen of the rules with which this new Rabbi would instruct his disciples to ‘fence round’ the law. In N.T. ποῖος may perhaps always be distinguished from τίς; in later Greek (see Sophocles, Lex. sub voc.) and in the modern vernacular the distinction is lost.

τὸ οὐ φονεύσεις κ.τ.λ. For the use of the article prefixed to a sentence cp. εἶπεν αὐτῷ· τὸ εἰ δύνῃ, Mark 9:23; ὁ πᾶς νόμος ἐν ἑνὶ λόγῳ πεπλήρωται ἐν τῷ ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου, Galatians 5:14. See Winer, p. 135.

οὐ φονεύσεις. In Hebrew a negative is never used with the imperative; prohibitions being always expressed by means of the future (or imperfect). This idiom is here followed in the Greek, οὐ φον.—prohibition, τίμα—positive command (Rœd.-Gesen. Hebr. Gram., p. 280) the future is however also used in pure Greek to express the imperative notion, as e.g. λέγʼ εἴ τι βούλει, χειρὶ δʼ οὐ ψαύσεις ποτέ, Eur Med. 1320 (Donaldson Grk. Gram. p. 407).

Comp. this enumeration with that in ch. Matthew 15:19. Here, as there, the commandments proceed in order from the 6th to the 9th. Here, as there, the enumeration stops at covetousness—the rich ruler’s special failing. The fifth commandment not named in ch. 15 had probably an individual application here. Neither St Mark nor St Luke preserve the same order

Verse 20

20. πάντα ταῦτα ἐφύλαξα. Like St Paul, he was κατὰ δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐν νόμῳ ἄμεμπτος. Philippians 3:6.

Verse 21

21. τέλειος. Used here in relation to τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ, ‘complete;’ not [1] in the deeper sense which the word sometimes bears in reference to the ancient mysteries, as 1 Corinthians 2:6, σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις (see also Colossians 1:28); nor [2] in the sense of ‘perfect’ in manhood, opposed to babes, as Philippians 3:15, ὅσοι οὖν τέλειοι τοῦτο φρονῶμεν (see also 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:14).

ὕπαγε, πώλησον κ.τ.λ. Jesus does indeed bid him do something, but to do that would be a proof of being perfect, it is the test for his special case, not a universal rule. With many it is more difficult to use wealth for Christ than to give it up for Christ. St Mark has the touching words ‘Jesus beholding him loved him.’ The incident recalls the parable of the ‘merchant man seeking goodly pearls’ (ch. Matthew 13:45-46). Here is a seeker after good, the pearl is found: will he not sell all that he hath and buy it?

The aorist πώλησον indicates the single act, ἀκολούθει the continual following of Christ. Cp. Dem. Phil. I. 14, ἐπειδὰν ἅπαντα ἀκούσητε κρίνατε (‘decide once for all’), μὴ πρότερον προλαμβάνετε (‘don’t be prejudging as I go on’); and Eur. Med. 1248, λαθοῦ βραχεῖαν ἡμέραν παίδων σέθεν κἄπειτα θρήνει. ‘For one brief day forget, and then go on lamenting.’

Verse 22

22. λυπούμενος. A conflict of opposite desires vexed his soul. He wished to serve God and mammon. He was sorrowful because he saw that the special sacrifice required to win eternal life was too great for him. He was lost through the ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου (ch. Matthew 13:22).

Verse 23

23. τὴν βασ. τῶν οὐρ. Comparing this with Matthew 19:16-17, we note that ζωὴ αἰώνιος, ἡ ζωὴ and ἠ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν are used as synonyms.

Verses 23-26


Mark 10:23-27. Luke 18:24-27

These reflections follow naturally on the last incident.

Verse 24

24. κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος. An expression familiar to Jews of our Lord’s time. The exaggeration is quite in the Eastern style. Some attempts however have been made to explain away the natural meaning of the words. κάμιλον, which is said to mean ‘a thick rope,’ has been read for κάμηλον. But the change has no MS. support, and κάμιλος, which does not occur elsewhere, is probably an invention of the Scholiast. Others have explained τρύπημα ῥαφίδος to be the name of a gate in Jerusalem. But the existence of such a gate is not established; and the variety of expression for ‘a needle’s eye,’ τρύπημα ῥαφίδος (Matt.), τρυμαλία ῥαφίδος (Mark), τρῆμα βελόνης (Luke), is against this view. The variation also indicates that the proverb was not current in Greek. The expression in Luke is the most classical. ῥαφὶς is rejected by the Attic purists: ἡ δὲ ῥαφὶς τί ἐστιν οὐκ ἄν τις γνοίη (Lob. Phryn. p. 90). τρύπημα was a vernacular word and is found in Aristoph. Pac. 1234.

An eastern traveller has suggested that the association of ideas arose thus: every camel driver carries with him a large needle to mend his pack-saddle as occasion requires, hence the ‘camel’ and the ‘needle.’

Verse 25

25. ἐξεπλήσσοντο σφόδρα. The extreme amazement of the disciples, which can find no echo in souls trained to Christianity, is not quite easy to understand. But there was present to the disciples, perhaps, a latent Jewish thought that external prosperity was a sign of the favour of heaven. Then in a town like Capernaum all the leading religious people would be rich (see note Matthew 19:16). There is always a tendency when religious life is at a low ebb to make disciples of the wealthy and to exalt their saintliness. One of the distinctive marks of Christ’s mission was ‘preaching to the poor.’ Cp. St Paul’s words: ἡ κατὰ βάθους πτωχεία αὐτῶν ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς ἁπλότητος αὐτῶν, 2 Corinthians 8:2. Read also St James 5:1-11.

τίς ἄρα δύναται σωθῆναι; The thought of the disciples still lives: for the guilt of detected wickedness is mainly brought home to the poor, the sins of the rich and educated seldom result in crime, accordingly wealth and intellect make men seem better, ‘sometimes even supplying the absence of real good with what looks extremely like it.’ See a Sermon by Prof. Mozley, on The Reversal of Human Judgment, pp. 85–87.

Verse 26

26. ἐμβλέψας. These heart-searching looks of Christ doubtless gave an effect to His words which it is impossible to recall, but which would never be effaced from the memory of those who felt their meaning.

Verse 27

27. ἀφήκαμενἠκολουθήσαμεν. The aorists have their proper force, ‘left,’ ‘followed.’

τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν; Peter, still not perfect in the Spirit of Christ, suggests a lower motive for following Christ. The answer of Christ shews that all true sacrifice shall have its reward, but all that looks like sacrifice is not really such, therefore ‘Many that are first shall be last.’ Among the Twelve there was a Judas.

Verses 27-30


Mark 10:28-31. Luke 18:28-30

Verse 28

28. ἐν τῇ παλινγενεσίᾳ. These words qualify καθίσεσθε, and are themselves defined by ὅταν καθίσῃ κ.τ.λ.

παλινγενεσία, ‘a return to life,’ a new birth. Late and rarely used. It expressed a Stoic thought, ἡ περιοδικὴ παλινγενεσία τῶν ὅλων, ‘the periodic restitution of all things’ (M. Antoninus XI. 1, quoted by Wetstein). Cicero speaks of his return from exile as a παλινγενεσία, ad Attic. VI. 6. Similarly Josephus writes: τὴν ἀνάκτησιν καὶ παλινγενεσίαν τῆς πατρίδος ἑορτάζοντες, Ant. XI. 3. 9. Both of these thoughts find a place in the N.T. meaning of the word. It is the renewed and higher life of the world regenerated by Christ, succeeding the birth-pangs (ὠδῖνες) which the present generation must suffer. Again, it is the spiritual return of Israel from the bondage of the law, which the Apostle calls ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν, Romans 11:15.

Other meanings have been assigned to παλινγενεσία in this passage: [1] The Saviour’s return to glory in His Father’s kingdom. [2] The glorified life of the Apostles after death.

In Titus 3:5 παλινγενεσία is used of the new life the entrance to which is baptism: ἔσωσεν ἡμᾶς διὰ λουτροῦ παλινγενεσίας καὶ ἀνακαινώσεως πνεύματος ἁγίου κ.τ.λ.

καθίσεσθε καὶ αὐτοὶ κ.τ.λ. One aspect of the παλινγενεσία was the new birth of thought which spiritualised every conception. Israel became no longer Israel according to the flesh, to reign was to reign spiritually with Christ. In this spiritual Israel the Apostles have actually sat on thrones. They are the kings and judges of the Church of God.

τὰς δώδεκα φυλάς. Incidentally this expression confirms the connection between the number of the Apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel.

Verse 29

29. This saying would fulfil itself in many ways to the thoughts of the Apostles. [1] In the spiritual relationships, homes, children, and fathers in Christ that sprang up to them wherever the gospel was preached. In a deep sense the thought of ‘omne solum forti patria est’ would come home to the first evangelists. [2] As Christ recognised his kindred in those who did the work of His Father, reciprocally His servants found in their brethren, wife, children and lands. [3] Sometimes self-renouncement created intensified love for others: sometimes kinsfolk forsaken for Christ were in turn won for Christ, and thus increased manifold the gift and love of kinship.

πολλαπλασίονα λήμψεται. St Mark adds μετὰ διωγμῶν. Did this word that explains so much fall so softly at the end of the sentence as to be heard only by the nearest to the Saviour? Was it half forgotten till persecution came?

Verse 30

30. Note the connecting particles—δὲ in this verse, γάρ (Matthew 20:1), οὕτως (Matthew 20:16); δὲ marks the contrasting statement, γὰρ introduces the illustration of it, οὕτως closing the illustration reverts to the statement illustrated.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Matthew 19:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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